A robust theology of sin

By Dave Henning / January 27, 2023

“A robust theology of sin helps us live beyond self-deception.  A limited theology of sin often results in a false sense of spiritual maturity. . . .  It is a small step from a narrow understanding of sin straight into the depths of it. . . .  Sin is not just about ‘not doing that.’  Sin is the negation of love.”- Rich Villodas

The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people . . . or even like this tax collector.”- Luke 18:11 (NIV)

As Rich Villodas moves on in Chapter 1 of Good and Beautiful and Kind, he notes what happens when we expand our understanding of sin.  That enables us to better assess our spiritual health.  So, in a strictly defined legal sense, perhaps we’ve kept God’s Law today.  But, Rich asks, what about our failure to love?

Above all, Rich counsels against measuring spiritual vitality by sin-avoidance.  Because then we deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re following Jesus faithfully.  Above all, Pastor Villodas cautions, we find ourselves operating as disciples of the devil.

In his book New Seeds of Contemplation, poet and theologian Thomas Merton explains this concept:

“The devil makes many disciples by preaching against sin.  He convinces them of the great reality of sin, induces a crisis of guilt by which ‘God is satisfied,’ and after that he lets them spend the rest of their lives meditating on the intense sinfulness and evident reprobation of other men.”

Therefore, when we define sin in a narrow manner, a crushing moralism stops us from enjoying God.  And, like the Pharisee talking about the tax collector, we self-righteously place ourselves above others.

In conclusion, Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of following the law without the corresponding commitment to love (see Matthew 23:23). Furthermore, Rich asks, how can someone locked into their own soul expect to cultivate a healthy relationship with the wider world?

Today’s question: How do you respond to a robust theology of sin?

Tomorrow’s blog: “Interior examination, outward love”

About the author

Dave Henning

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